I was an only child for the first thirteen years of my life. I was also an only grandchild on my maternal side. I was one of six grandchildren on my paternal side. For some reason, my grandmothers felt that they were in competition with each other to give me the best or biggest gifts. It drove my mother nuts.
Mom decided when I was born that I wouldn’t eat a lot of sweets. As a mom myself, I have a feeling that most mothers plan that for their first children (by the second, they know better). I was too little to have an Easter basket for my first Easter, but for my second Easter, Mom filled a basket with a banana, an orange and an apple. There was a bunch of that fake green grass in the bottom and from the picture of me holding the banana, I was happy enough.
Enter the grandmas. Granny, my paternal grandmother bulldozed right over my mom’s wishes and brought me a big basket filled with chocolate bunnies and jelly beans. When Mamie saw what she had done, she brought me more the next year. I can remember an Easter when I was about five that was a veritable chocolate orgy. I had so many chocolate bunnies and malted milk eggs that I got a sick tummy.
Christmas was no less an arena for grandmotherly competition. One year, Granny asked either Mom or Mamie what I was getting for Christmas from them. When she found out I was getting a doll house, she went out and bought another one. We have a photo of the tree that morning. Besides two doll houses and a number of dolls, I had a sled, a table and chair set, a play sink and a few other big items. Because we lived three hours away and had only a Volare station wagon, I had to forever leave the bigger doll house at Mamie’s house.
Eventually, the competition diminished. After I found out about the Easter Bunny and Santa, the extra Easter baskets and over-the-top toys disappeared. As the years passed, we also moved farther and farther away from New York and visited less often, making it harder to transport presents. Whatever the reason that my grandmothers felt they had to one-up each other, it made for some magical holidays for me.